Do You Want To Get Well?

Several Sundays back I heard a sermon that resonated with me. It was from John 5:1-9. This is the story of the crippled, sick, disabled man. The King James version says a man who was “impotent”, and I urged our pastor NOT to use that description unless he wanted to deal with Jesus and Viagra jokes after the service! Anyway, this is the man who had laid by the pool at Bethesda for THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS, trying to get to the healing waters. Jesus spots him and for unknown reasons picks that man to approach and He asks him what seems to be the most ridiculous question, “Do you want to get well?” I had always breezed over that question and chalked it up to one of the “riddle questions” Jesus made a habit of asking people. I mean, OF COURSE, the man wants to get well! Right?! Or was Jesus maybe probing at something deeper…

The man responded with his list of excuses on why he’d been unable to “get well” yet. Jesus simply responded, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk!”

It says the man instantly got well, picked up his mat, and walked. I guess that means he did want to get well. Is it possible that he could have just refused and continued to make excuses? Yes, I think it is. Why? Because I see it Every. Single. Day.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever learned is that not everyone wants to be made well. Some people enjoy being pitied or dependent on others. Some are reluctant to leave the familiar and explore possibilities for a better life. It is difficult to impose healing on a person who is comfortable with the way things are. Such a person is likely to sabotage efforts to produce change.

I mean, think about it. This guy had gotten used to depending on others for his every need. 38 years is plenty of time for some strong and comfortable habits to develop. If he were to be made well, he would be expected to get up and care for himself. He would probably need to get a job, find a place to live, get his own food, etc. Surly he had “counted the cost” of getting well over the years. Jesus healing him would not just change his circumstances but would ultimately change who this guy was. Was this guy ready for it? I guess so.

How heartbreaking would it have been for Jesus if the man had said, “You know what, I think I’m good where I’m at. This has worked for me for a long time, so I don’t think I REALLY want to get well. I think I like these excuses I have for staying right where I’m at.”

It seems absurd that someone would respond that way, but they do. Maybe not word for word like that, but they make the choice to not get well when the solution to do so is placed squarely in their lap. I don’t know how many nights I’ve cried myself to sleep, beat the steering wheel while I drove, or wanted to curl in the shower while the hot water pelted me because someone chose to throw the “cure for their ailment” I was offering them right into the trash. People who are so attached to their problems that they’d rather use them as excuses for never improving or changing. People who tolerate an issue while claiming to be a victim. Then some are so stuck in their depression, anger, hate, pride, or fear that those are the only emotions they know anymore.

It’s hard, really hard when you see this happen over and over again and keep from becoming angry, bitter, jaded, pessimistic, and cynical. Then, the other day, one of those spam emails came through that I have no idea how I got on the list and I usually mass delete but I stopped on this one and opened it. The paraphrase is, “Hey sister, I see you. You’ve been showing up. You’ve worked hard. You’ve tried your best to follow where He has led you. You didn’t expect it to lead you to where you are now. Your heart is in the right place. You sincerely want to make a difference, but your calling has burned you.”

Deep sigh… I see you too sister. And for those of you out there fighting an “ailment” and making excuses, pick up your mat and walk. Your life is so much bigger than this.